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Ask Amy: Grad school heartbreak hits hard

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • December 30, 2013 - 2:12 PM

Dear Amy: My daughter, who was a late bloomer, entered into a serious relationship with “Sam” at a school out of state last year when they were both college seniors.

They applied to a variety of grad schools (separately and together), but were only mutually accepted by one school in his home state (the same state where they met).

She could have gone to another school in another state with a free ride, but she chose to stay with him and doubled her student loans to do so.

We warned her of the consequences if they break up, but were assured that would never happen. Of course, shortly after school started, it did.

Now she feels trapped at a school she never wanted to go to with a debt she feels stupid to have taken on, and feels “broken.”

She pines for the boy, because it was her fault they broke up. She’s home now for winter break and she cries all the time. We’ve had talks with her, but I’m at a loss for what to do.

Amy says: Envelop your daughter in your family embrace while she is with you. Making the kind of choice she made is common at her age, but emphasize to her that any choice she makes can be mitigated through her efforts.

She can heal from this breakup, but first she needs to rediscover herself. Help her explore those things about her school that are positive and urge her to see out the year there in order to give this experience meaning beyond the boyfriend. Let her know that you will help her figure out her next step (including transfer).

Encourage her to get together with hometown friends while she is home. Commiserate by sharing your own similar experiences (if you have them), so she won’t feel alone. She is not a victim, and this was not her fault. This is life.

If your daughter doesn’t seem to pull out of this — even slowly — take her depression and despair seriously. If she ruminates excessively and you become alarmed, make an appointment with a local therapist, and — no matter what — she should check in with her school’s counseling center when she returns to campus.

Thankful for therapy

Dear Amy: Please, please continue to be an advocate for people getting professional help. You don’t go to therapy because you’re crazy; you go to learn what you don’t know.

My childhood was bad because of mental, emotional and physical abuse. My parents and their siblings were not able to overcome their poor childhoods. My advantage was that I was smart, and I think it helped me to seek and persevere through many years of therapy. I have been able to create a happy life, and I can look forward to a wonderful future.

We are going through some terrible family drama now, and it is because the rest of the family was unable to do what I did.

I am sorry for all of the hell people go through during the holiday season. Please help them to see it doesn’t have to be this way.

Amy says: I advocate for professional counseling because it can (but not always) work wonders. A neutral person who has training and expertise can help decode mysterious family dynamics and conflicts, and counseling need not always be expensive. Clergy can offer therapeutic wisdom and spiritual support, and the local department of children and family services can connect people with qualified social workers and family therapists.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com.

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